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Forming Christians Who Form Christians

Mafa Emmaus

My reflection today springs from a tweet by Simon Leighton:

What the tweet set me to thinking about was the formation clergy needed in order to form other Christians. Because, isn’t that the essential vocation of clergy?

Bonhoeffer, of course, has much to teach us – through his writings and modelled in his life – about clergy formation.

I am ordering a book Leading by Story: Rethinking Church Leadership which promises to move away from the world of leadership and management in understanding Christian leadership.

The tweet pointed to a series by The Rev. Dr. Mark Clavier on contemporary ministry formation:
The Sea Change
Time makes Ancient Truths Uncouth
Toward a New Vision for Formation
Schools for the Imagination

Getting an academic theological qualification appears to be the “heart” of agreed contemporary ministry “formation” (note scare quotes!). NZ Anglicanism, for example, as far as I know, has no agreed ministry-formation requirements, but a theological qualification (unless one is past a certain age) appears to be, at least implicitly, part of what all dioceses require. But Mark Clavier says it well:

It’s like teaching people how to drive by discussing how cars are built. Too often the study of Scripture and theology is done at arm’s length, like a scientist engaging in vivisection.

Instead, in a Throwback-Thursday kind of way, and noting yesterday’s clarion call for the church to re-own spirituality, here is some reading I suggest:

Christian Contemplative Practice
Contemplative Community
Contemplative community 2
Forming contemplative leadership
contemplative leadership
4 Dimensions of Priestly Formation

What do you think?

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2 thoughts on “Forming Christians Who Form Christians”

  1. I like the approach ‘forming to form’ for the way it gets us away from the tug-of-war of the academic/practical dialectic.

    I remember older ordinands in my seminary being enrolled in a two-year diploma of pastoral studies, an in-house qualification. We called it the ‘diploma of paper shuffling’, for having to show one’s achievements required endless reports and forms that took more time than the practical learning.

    In conversation with a German Lutheran pastor, he lamented that ordinands rolled out of seminary as fully formed systematic theologians without the ability to communicate their knowledge or to live it out.

    In Australian Anglicanism (I’m sure there are similarities with NZ) there are no nationally agreed requirements, and the ‘tyranny of distance’ means that many dioceses do their own training. The history of academia here has been the separation of theology from the academy, with the result that academic theology is a bit of an also-ran. Yet a degree is a part of the formation for most ordinands. If we were making a cake, we would wonder whether we have the wrong recipe or the ingredients are inferior. The problem is exacerbated when there are no real curacies working with an experienced priest after ordination, but put in charge of a ministry with someone to look in you once a month.

    What recipe do you feel we need? And how do we recognise good ingredients?

    1. Thanks, Gareth. And yes, your Australian description sounds similar to the Kiwi one.

      In one of my links, I suggested the ingredients for priestly formation include:
      A deep contemplative foundation
      Rigorous academic education
      To build on the desire I have been expressing these last couple of days: to reclaim spirituality as a Christian focus – if clergy are not able to lead growth in spirituality in individuals and in communities, I think we have seriously lost our way. A second issue springs to mind: I regularly find clergy training and formation in which presiding at the Eucharist, and leading services generally, ranks way down the list of ‘skills’. ‘Training’ for this is provided last minute – just before being ordained priest so that they don’t make a fool of themselves at their presiding at their first Eucharist. It may be taught without reference to much, if any, liturgical theory. Or it might be ‘caught’ from someone who themselves have ‘caught’ it in a liturgical version of Chinese whispers. So practices are abandoned with no real reason or reflection. And others are continued in a guru’s cat experience.

      What do you think?


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